What Does the Future Hold for Your Business?
Whether it’s a recipe, a blueprint or an instruction manual, we all take comfort in having a set of plans to guide us.
Instructions (unless they’re poorly translated and involve any sort of flat-pack) can be a sure-fire way of transforming random parts into the end product. The same is true for a recipe. Combining the ingredients in a certain way will result in something resembling the photo.
The principles we apply to business are similar. Each year or so, we develop a strategy and goals with a business plan to use as a guide. We may each apply different methods, but generally speaking, we end up with something that looks like the picture we formed in our mind.
The significant difference, however, is that unlike a bookcase, a swing-set or a tray of chocolate fudge, what we see at the end of the plan, isn’t the finished product. Business plans cover a relatively short period in the life of our business. There are so many likely changes and contingencies that a detailed plan spanning several years will probably be redundant after the first twelve months.
Business plans are usually very short-term for start-ups because their day to day operations are so volatile. Longer-term plans become possible when a business grows and has reliable data for projections, but they are still done in realistic stages.
A different type of plan.
So, it takes a different sort of plan to get an idea of what we want our business to look like as a finished product. That type of plan looks more like a map. We might choose a destination, but there are many ways to get there. Each leg of your travels becomes a firm and manageable business plan. And each stage of the journey takes account of your current circumstances and results in a plan that gets your business to the next stopover.
The key to good business planning is to set a destination from the outset and allow it to guide the general direction of your smaller plans. In the exciting early days of business, most entrepreneurs are focused on making sure their business will provide a sustainable income. And while that’s definitely a good place to begin, big picture planning will influence most of your short-term decisions.
Start with the end in mind.
So, when I work with start-ups, one of the first things I ask them to think about is how they want to exit their business:
- Would they like to work in it until they retire?
- Would they like the option of selling it?
- Is their business something that could expand overseas, or be developed as a franchise?
Not surprisingly, most start-ups aren’t sure.
But by establishing those questions from the beginning, we get a snapshot of our destination, and that helps with the following:
Including your name in the name of your business is a great way to connect it to your personal profile, but if you want to sell or franchise down the track, what impact might that have on a prospective buyer or franchisee?
A big picture plan for your business will give you an idea of where you’re planning to trade and which key assets of your business need protecting in Australian and abroad. Some trade marking can safely be delayed, but if your business is building a brand around a product name or logo, they need to take priority.
As a founder, you are generally immersed in every aspect of your business until it grows enough to employ staff. If you plan to build a business that allows you to travel and pursue other interests, then making yourself, expendable in the day to day processes becomes part of the plan from day one.
Whether you’re a sole trader, company, partnership or joint venture depends on where the business is planning to go. These can be changed down the track, but not without some costs. So, a little forethought, in the beginning, will help put you on the right track.
Creating policies and procedures are important for any business, but if you want to franchise, it becomes central to your business development. All of your processes need to be documented so you can create the assets that become the franchise.
These are just five ways a destination can shape your travel plans, but there are many more.
There’s nothing stopping us from changing our mind or choosing a new destination. But by looking to the future in the early days, we keep our options open and don’t inadvertently lock ourselves into a future we didn’t choose.
Although I cover this with new businesses, many of my clients get a second chance if they go through a major restructure or decide to rebrand. If that’s where your business is at, consider it a ‘rebirthing’ and use the opportunity to make some decisions about the ultimate destination of your business.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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